Lynch, Marjorie Ward (1920-1977)

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 12/07/2015
  • Essay 11155

Marjorie Lynch served 10 years in the Washington State House of Representatives, from 1961 to 1971, representing the 14th Legislative District in Yakima County. Born in England, Lynch came to the United States in 1945 as a war bride and became a citizen three years later. A mother of three, Lynch got involved in politics soon after her arrival in Washington, and become a state representative by appointment in 1961. This was followed by five successful elections, after which she went to work for the federal government, first at the volunteer program ACTION, followed by the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Lynch died of cancer in 1977.

A British Youth

Marjorie Ward was born in London, England, on November 30, 1920. Because her father Geoffrey was an alderman for many years in the borough of Croydon, and her mother was involved in civic work, she developed an interest in politics and community issues at a young age. When she was 16 Ward ran a youth club in the slums of London, helping to improve the lives of the city's poor.

In 1939 Ward volunteered for service in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, and she eventually rose in the ranks to become a first lieutenant in the Royal Air Force. She also served with the American Red Cross in London and Paris. While in Paris, she met Dr. Edward Donald Lynch (1912 -2007), a U.S. Army medical officer from Yakima, on Christmas Day, 1944. They married the following year.

After the war, the young bride was hesitant to move to America with her husband. Her father, who was Canadian, had met his wife in England during World War I, and opted to remain in the country so that she could be close to her family. When Lynch told her mother that she was considering moving to America, her mother urged her to go and "don't be foolish like I was" ("British-Born 'Rebel' ..."). Her father encouraged her to become an American citizen as soon as possible, saying "knowing you, you won't be able to keep your mouth closed" ("How English Schoolgirl ...").

A New Life

Upon her arrival in Yakima, Lynch at first wondered if she had made the right decision. Years later, she noted that she turned to her husband with tears in her eyes and said, "Don't you even have sidewalks here?" -- the snow-covered community seemed bleak and small, and she remembered thinking, "What in the name of heaven have I done?" ("British-Born 'Rebel' ...").

Her doubts were allayed once she met members of the community, who welcomed her with open arms. Within a month she was working with the America Red Cross and she soon began volunteering for a variety of community groups involving health and education. In 1948, she became an American citizen, and by 1954 she had given birth to three daughters, Valerie, Daphne, and Theresa.

Lynch also became active in local politics. In 1952 she served as the chairwoman for Citizens for Eisenhower and she served as the vice chairwoman of the Yakima County Republican Club until 1956. She then became vice president of the Women's Federation of Washington State Republican Club, and in 1961 she was elected vice chairwoman of the Washington State Republican Central Committee.

In Office

Also in 1961, State Representative Lincoln Shropshire resigned his seat in the 14th Legislative District to become prosecuting attorney for Yakima County. By this time, Lynch had become well-known and liked throughout the region and she was appointed to fill the rest of his term. The following year she campaigned for and won her first election to the legislature. She would win again in 1964, 1966, 1968, and 1970.

In 1963 Lynch was selected as chair of the House of Representatives Higher Education Committee, a position she would hold for five years. Lynch considered education one of her highest priorities and in 1967 she was the prime sponsor of the bill to create the state's community college system. Lynch was also instrumental in the creation of Evergreen State College in Olympia.

Lynch's conservative values meshed well with those of her Eastern Washington constituents. But while fighting for farmers' rights and lower property taxes, she also let her own ideals hold sway, especially when it came to health issues. In 1970, she threw her support behind Referendum 20 -- to legalize a woman's right to an abortion in the early months of pregnancy -- believing that the law should not be involved in a person's moral and religious responsibility.

Moving Up

Lynch resigned her legislative seat in 1971 to become Northwest Regional Director of ACTION, the federal agency created by President Richard Nixon (1913-1994) to encourage and assist effective volunteer action throughout the private sector. She held this position for two years, and directed the regional Peace Corps, VISTA, and SCORE programs. In 1974 President Nixon nominated her to serve as associate director for ACTION's Domestic and Anti-poverty Operations.

Later in 1974, President Gerald Ford (1913-2006), who succeeded to the office following Nixon's resignation as a result of the Watergate scandal, nominated Lynch to become the deputy administrator of the newly-created American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, which would plan and develop an overall program for commemorating the 200th anniversary of America's founding.

However, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) took umbrage over the fact that a British-born immigrant would be given such a patriotic position. The DAR filed a formal protest, which disappointed Lynch, who felt that it put her total citizenship into question. At her confirmation hearings Lynch told lawmakers, "The tenets of American democracy are particularly cherished when you are not born to them but with deliberation and conviction adopt them for your own" ("British-Born 'Rebel' ..."). Her appointment was approved after two tries, and Lynch eventually smoothed over the DAR's concerns.

A Life Complete

At the end of 1976, after the nation's Bicentennial celebrations began to wane, President Ford appointed Lynch as undersecretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), making Lynch the second-highest-ranking woman in his administration, after Carla Hills, secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). One of Lynch's first assignments was to simplify some of the overly bureaucratic rules and regulations created by HEW in the past.

After President Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) was elected, Lynch stayed on as HEW undersecretary, but resigned her post in March 1977 to become associate vice president for continuing education at the University of Alabama. While there, she was diagnosed with cancer, and she died in Tacoma on November 8, 1977.

Sources: "Politics Came Naturally for Yakima Lawmaker," The Spokesman-Review, December 26, 1962, p. 5; "Solons' Wives Play Cards, Purl to While Away Time," The Seattle Times, January 15, 1965, p. 19; "Distaff Solon Spreads Interest," Spokane Daily Chronicle, January 27, 1967, p. 6; "British-Born 'Rebel' Helps Boss Bicentennial," Reading Eagle, June 24, 1975, p. 12; "How English Schoolgirl Became US Bicentennial Official," The Toledo Blade, May 14, 1975, p. 33; "She Has Big Job at HEW," The Milwaukee Journal, March 31, 1976, p. 6; "No Blindness Test Needed when Both Eyes Are Missing," The Seattle Times, December 1, 1976, p. A-13; "Marjorie Lynch, 58, Dies," The Seattle Times, November 9, 1977, p. H-9; "Marjorie Lynch Dead after Years of Service," Ellensburg Daily Record, November 11, 1977, p. 5; "Women in the Legislature: Marjorie Lynch," Washington State Legislature website accessed November 27, 2015 (

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You